I’ve always been in love with Italy- the landscape, food, wine, the lemons (if you are ever in Sorrento, eat a lemon, they’re sweet and delicious!)- you know, like most people.
I’m also half Italian by heritage, so I’ve always had a peaked interest in it thanks to my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother would make and bake specific pasta recipes (cappelletti en brodo!) for the holidays, and I’d often hear my maternal grandmother swear in its lyrical language.
When I was just out of college, I enrolled in an Italian language class at the local college and learned some of the basics, but never took it further. I let the lessons slide away and as life got busy with searching for a job, moving, and learning a new city.
In 2014, I had the opportunity to go with my husband, my mother, and her best friend on a 10-day trip across Italy and several of its cities. Obviously, I jumped at the chance. While I was focused on packing everything I would need to look stylish, I didn’t dive back into the language until I was on my way there. Sadly, I treated their beautiful language as an afterthought, and for this, I am ashamed, because once I was there, I felt entirely out of my element.
Now, it’s not like many Italians don’t understand English, they do, especially in the tourist-prone areas, but I wanted to share and show respect by being able to speak the basics. Please and thank you. Per favore e grazie.
Our tour guide was amazing, she was always ready to translate if need be and we were easily able to muddle through without it being a barrier, but I couldn’t genuinely immerse myself into it all. I didn’t feel comfortable deviating from the schedule we were on and therefore, I feel like I missed a lot.
So when the trip was over, I vowed that I would learn the language so I wouldn’t feel like a stronza the next time we were in the country!
But that didn’t happen either because once again, life.
My husband and I had our son about a year and a half after our trip and along with caring for a newborn/toddler while running our blossoming business, learning Italian wasn’t a priority.
Until last year- good ol’ 2020. My husband and I decided that we wanted to return to Italy for our 10 year wedding anniversary, with a two-week trip where we would immerse ourselves in the beauty of it all. Brava! I was so excited and knew I needed to LEARN the language!
When I saw a class advertised at our local library in January where a local high school teacher would teach conversational Italian, I felt like it was a sign and excitedly signed up. For five glorious classes, I roughly conversed in Italian, trying to embrace it as much as I could.
And then, in March, COVID hit. I sadly watched Italy spiral with rising infection numbers and once the class was canceled, I realized our trip too would be sidelined.
While we finished the remainder of the Italian classes on Zoom in late summer, it wasn’t as easy to hear and follow, so I don’t feel as if I walked away with a greater grasp of the language.
Now, a year later, I still dabble with the language, using certain commands and phrases (andiamo!, mangia, grazie, per favore, prego), reading texts, and using Duolingo. But hearing and listening to someone speak Italian is much more of an immersive and educational experience, at least to me.
I do have a better general understanding of the language and can comprehend a small bit of what I’m reading and hearing. But since I have an upcoming family history project that will require a good amount of research in Italian and (fingers crossed) Italy, I need to be proficient enough that I can understand what I am reading, hearing, and seeing. So, I continue to learn. Così, io continuo a imparare.